The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Working together for a covered dish supper

Pentecost 9B, Proper 12
John 6:1-21


In the name of God.  Amen.

I’ve lived in northern New Jersey longer than I’ve ever lived in any one place in my entire life.  Even after these eight years, however, I continue to experience culture shock.  No matter where I go, or how long I’m away, I’ll always be a kid from Louisiana out on a wild adventure in a strange land.

Culture shock presents itself in some unusual ways: being chastised for holding a door for a lady or saying ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘yes sir’, not finding the spices or coffees or foods that I require in my local grocery store, driving…

But over the years I’ve been noticed another kind of culture shock you might not expect: Potluck Dinners.  They’re a staple of church life in the South.  We call them ‘Covered Dish Dinners’, but the principle is the same: everyone in the community agrees to come together to share a meal.  Everyone brings a little something and it adds up to a feast.  Perhaps there’s some programming or event around which the meal is centered, but not usually.  Usually, it’s just about the meal and the community and the miracles that abound when the two are allowed to blossom into a celebration.

I guess the primary difference between ‘Covered Dish Dinners’ in the South and ‘Potluck Dinners’ in the North is that y’all seem to feel the need to plan it all out.  Potluck Dinners, as least as I’ve experienced them in New Jersey, tend to involve sign-up sheets and pre-planned commitments about who will come and who will bring what and – God forbid – sometimes even a collection basket for those who didn’t bring anything.

Covered Dish Dinners, on the other hand, tend to be a bit more informal.  Sure, we all know Miss Eula Mae is gonna bring her 7-layer coconut cake, so we don’t bring that, but everything else just kind of happens.  Yeah, there may be two trays of deviled eggs, but everyone’s deviled eggs are a little different, so it can’t hurt.  And it’s true, tuna casserole with that corn flake topping doesn’t really GO with pot roast, but who cares?!

Covered Dish Dinners aren’t about planning a meal; they’re about making space for grace.  It doesn’t work out as neatly as if it had all been planned ahead of time, but works out all the same.

It never really adds up.  Everyone is asked to bring enough for themselves.  Some people don’t bring anything.  Everyone eats more than their share, and there are always leftovers.  It just doesn’t add up.  We can’t know how it works, but we know it works.

This is Paul’s prayer for the church: that we might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”; that we might know the unknowable.

For me, this is the function of the miracles in the story of Jesus: they remind us not just that there are unknowables in this world, but that through the grace of Christ, they can be known.  In our post-modern, western culture we compulsively try to explain away the unknowables in our lives.  We can be pretty imaginative in our attempts – explaining how the parting of the Red Sea might have been a drought followed by a flash flood, or explaining away the empty tomb by saying either that Jesus didn’t really die or that his body was stolen.

We do this because miracles make us uncomfortable.  Miracles are unknowable and nothing makes us quite as uncomfortable as those things that surpass knowledge.

Last week we talked about one of the greatest miracles of the human experience: working together.

Remember that Jesus and his disciples worked at different times, and covered for one another during the others’ times of rest.  The end result was that each member of the team had a bit of rest, and each individual in the pressing crowd had their needs met.  They were each taught, or healed, or fed according to their needs.

The Gospel of Christ is a gospel of community.  While ‘working together’ may seem like one of the greatest ‘miracles’ that could happen among people, the reality is that it’s the minimum standard expected of those of us who follow Christ.

This morning we hear another account of working together.

When the disciples saw the crowd gathering in, they knew that their resources were too insignificant to handle the needs of all of those people.  But Jesus took what they had - the simple rations that they could find, gave thanks for it, and began distributing it to the people.

I always imagine that as the baskets got passed around, people took from it as they had need of it, but that they also added to it as they had the ability.  When people give themselves over to the possibility of thinking not just of themselves, but of their place in the larger community, these things tend to happen.

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a way of explaining away the miracle.  It’s a way of understanding the possibility of the same kind of miracle happening in our own lives all the time.

And it does happen, doesn’t it?  Think about our life here as a congregation.  Giving isn’t just about the money that you put into the offering plate every Sunday - though that’s clearly one example of the same kind of miraculous power of a united community.  But in every aspect of how we operate as a community, we give where we’re able, we take where we have need, and in the end, the community thrives through mutual support.

You may not have the gift of singing or playing an instrument, but you help the music program by distributing fliers for concerts and offering your gratitude for those who have the gift of performing.  You may not have the gift that many other people in the congregation have of preparing and presenting a delicious meal for potluck lunches or hosting coffee hour, but perhaps you help by setting up or cleaning up afterwards.

We all have our gifts that we bring to this community.  None of us simply receives what the community has to offer - we all take a hand in making the offering.  No one offering is sufficient to meet all of the need.

Our doubt can sound like Andrew’s: looking at the five loaves and two fish available for the feeding of the five thousand, he said to Jesus, “What are they among so many?”  Or as one commentator paraphrased him, “How can the tremendous need we see be met by so small an offering?”

Who among us does not often feel that our offering is too small and insignificant to meet the needs of our own lives, much less those needs of the world?

But here is the secret: our offerings are always small.  The needs of the world are always great, and our offerings to meet them are ALWAYS small in comparison.  But through God, as revealed in community, our offering, though seemingly insignificant, is sufficient.  It doesn’t quite add up, but the unknowable becomes known.

Like a proper Covered Dish Supper, we don’t need to plan out all the details.  The end result almost certainly won’t be perfect, but it will always be sufficient and even abundant.  And sometimes it will even be perfect.

Like the abundant love of Christ showered on all of us who don’t deserve it even a little, life doesn’t always add up right, but it divides up just fine.  Amen.

(this sermon is reworked from a previous version, posted here)

FCS: Love Goes to Press


Quick facts:
  • Show: Love Goes to Press
  • Off-Broadway
  • Date: Friday, July 27, 2012
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Closing date: July 29, 2012 (?)
  • Venue: Mint Theater Company
  • Running time: 2:20 (two intermissions)
  • My seat: Good.  I was on the fourth row, stage left.
  • Ticket source: a friend who works at a different theater company took me as his guest.
  • Understudies: none
Synopsis: Women working as war correspondents in that male-dominated world of the 1940s.

My thoughts:  I had said in my last FCS post that that one would probably be my shortest post ever, but this one may just have it beat!

Love Goes to Press is an entertaining little show, but I have to admit that I basically just didn't "get it".  I'm reminded of seeing an August Wilson play (Jitney) down at the Two River Theatre Company in Red Bank, NJ several months ago - before I started writing these little reflections - and I had a similar reaction to it.  Both shows were enjoyable, and well-executed, but I didn't really see the point behind them.  There wasn't much in the way of character or story development.  There seems to be this genre of play writing that mostly exists as a snapshot of a moment in time.  It isn't driven so much by the plot or the characters, but just as a look inside another world.  And while I enjoyed both of these theater experiences, something seemed missing from the experience.  Part of my frustration probably stems from the fact that in both of these shows, there are opportunities to explore real big social issues: race and gender inequality.  The "snapshot" approach to a play leaves these concepts largely unexplored.  It serves a purpose in that it gives a bit of insight into a too-often hidden part of the world, but it doesn't really seem to delve into those insights or those worldviews.  So I go away feeling a little cheated.  Cheated out of having had the chance to have grown through the perspective of the playwright.

Love Goes to Press was well-executed, but no one really stood out for me.  There were a couple of times when I was a bit puzzled by the staging - namely one particular scene near the end when one of the character was speaking forcefully to two different characters in a back-and-forth manner.  The speaking character was far stage left, and both of the people she was speaking to were near each other far stage right.  It was hard to follow who she was speaking to when.  It seemed that there might have been better ways of staging that so that we of the audience could have followed along.  But that was a minor flaw, and generally it was, as I said, well executed.

Closing arguments:
  • Would I see it again?  No.  It was entertaining, but once was enough.
  • Would I recommend it to others? If so, who?  It's closed now, so it hardly matters, but even so, probably not.
  • Twitter review: Good enough, but lacking in real direction.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Staggered breathing


Pentecost 8B, Proper 11


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Last week I spoke of the story of the death of John the Baptist as if it were somehow out of place in the wider narrative.  In case you needed any additional proof, this week we’re back to our regularly scheduled programing.  We’re back to the story of Jesus and the disciples, and the work they were doing with the people of Galilee teaching and healing and performing miracles.

But for the lesson we hear today to have any hope of making any sense, we really need to go back to look at what we read two weeks ago.  Really that, and not last week’s peculiar aside about John the Baptist, is the true entry point to this week’s Gospel.

So take yourself back, and try to remember where we were two weeks ago:

Jesus and his disciples had been traveling through the countryside teaching and performing many miracles.  Part of the main focus of that story was that they had returned to Jesus’ hometown, where Jesus had been less than warmly received.  In fact, Mark says, the people of his hometown “took offense at him.”

After that less than triumphant homecoming, Jesus called the disciples together and gave them instructions, then sent them out two by two to spread the reach of his influence.  It was as if Jesus were acknowledging that no one person - not even if that one person were Jesus - was capable of doing all of God’s work on earth alone.  They needed to fan out and to share the burden.

That brings us back to today’s reading, wherein we hear, “the apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.”  They had been spread far and wide, but had come back to report in to the boss at the home office.

It’s true that no excerpt from the Gospel that we read each Sunday ever really stands alone.  On one hand, we have to take them in little “bite-sized” chunks in order for the scriptures to be manageable.  But the downside of that is, we can be tempted to accidentally see these excerpts as standalone works, wherein each one exists in a vacuum apart from all of the others.

If you were to read today’s Gospel lesson in that way, frankly, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense.  It begins with Jesus calling the disciples to withdraw from the crowds and to rest a while.  If that were all there were to the story, I’d be standing here preaching a sermon about the importance of Sabbath time, and self-renewal in community.  I’d be talking about how important it is to take the downtime to recharge, and to reconnect with God, so that we could all be stronger and more ready for the work to which God is calling us.

But instead, immediately after Jesus calls the disciples to rest, the crowds press in again and Jesus heads back to work.  If we were to take the words as they’re printed on the page as if they existed in a vacuum - apart from the rest of the Gospel - the story doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.  The call to Sabbath renewal is met not with reconnecting the workers to God, but with more work still!

But of course no part of the story exists in a vacuum, and today is no exception.

If you notice the citation at the top of the lesson, you’ll see that we skip over some verses - nearly 20 of them!  That begins to shed some light on why it appears that Jesus isn’t following his own advice.

One of the stories that the lectionary calls us to skip over this morning is the familiar story of the feeding of the 5,000.  At the beginning of that story, in the first verse that we skipped over, there’s a subtle implication that the disciples returned to Jesus at the end of the day - as if they had been away.

So it seems that the disciples got their time to rest and recharge and to reconnect with God while Jesus dealt with the crowds.

And then later, after the feeding miracle, we’re told that Jesus dismisses the crowds, sends the disciples on ahead of him, and then goes away by himself for a time to pray.

Forgive me if this all sounds like minutia, but I think it’s pretty important.

So let’s recap: the disciples had been out working on behalf of Jesus and they came back in need of renewal.  So Jesus handled the crowds while the disciples rested.  Then the disciples returned to Jesus and they fed the 5,000.  After that, the disciples went on ahead, and Jesus lingered behind to take some renewal time of his own.

Are you beginning to see?

When I was singing in choirs in high school and college, occasionally we’d encounter a piece of music which would call for either the choir, or some voice part within the choir to sing an impossibly long note or phrase.  One of the tricks of singing in a choir is that the singers can take turns breathing at different times to make it sound like long notes or long musical phrases are sung uninterrupted.  We call it “staggered breathing”.  If you’ve ever sung in a choir, you’ve probably been told by the choir director at one point or another to “stagger your breathing”: to not breathe at the same time as your neighbor.  The goal is not to have the entire choir pass out from a lack of oxygen - no one can sing forever - but instead, the goal is to have the effect of the note or the phrase being sung without a break.  Everyone takes a little bit of break, but each singer takes it at different times to keep the music from suffering.  No one can do it all, but together, the members of the choir can cover for each other.

If the Gospel lesson for this morning had been read in a vacuum - as if the words on the page before us were all that there were, the takeaway might be that rest is important, but not as important as work.  It might have been heard as a call to keep working, and to keep working, until all of the work of God on this earth had been accomplished.  But when we take these words in the context of the wider story - the parts that have been left out - we begin to see that it’s not quite that simple.

As a community, it’s important for us to minister to those in need, to be sure.  But it’s also important for us to minister to one another.  The work of being God’s hands and feet in the world is huge, and none of us can do it alone.  We all need time to step back, to rest, and to reconnect with the source of all ministry.  It’s not enough to rely on the work of the priests, or the established leaders.  We all have to do our part, and we all have to know when to step away for a time.

That’s part of why we’re Christians in community.  No one exists as an island.  We need each other for mutual support.

In this summer season, particularly - but throughout the year, really - many of us take time away from time to time.  If you do, remember those who are left behind, continuing to toil in the fields of the Lord.  And don’t stay away too long, because we need you, too.  Rest and renewal are important.  And if we each take it in our turn, the work that needs to get done will get done, without any one person bearing too much of the burden.

In community, we support one another.  We can’t be Christians alone.

Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Politics and Prophecy


Pentecost 7B
Mark 6:14-29

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Gospel lesson we read today seems strangely out of place, doesn’t it?  And not just out of place with the trajectory of the larger narrative that we’ve been hearing for a few weeks, but out of place with all that we know (or at least think we know) about the point behind the story of Jesus.

In reality, Jesus is little more than an aside here.  His name is only mentioned as a reference point - almost just a locus of entry for an otherwise unrelated story.  And what a story it is!  Rather than something from the Bible, it almost sounds more like something out of an opera, or perhaps even more likely, some odd historically set soap opera!

It’s hard to figure out why it’s here to begin with.

But there’s a degree to which it almost feels fortuitous to me - as if it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  The story of John the Baptist, Herod, and his wife and mother-in-law, in addition to being like a racy soap opera, is, like so much of the story of Jesus, a story about the intersections and conflicts between politics and prophecy.  The relationship between Herod and John the Baptist was complex.  While Herod had all of the political power, John the Baptist had another kind of power - moral authority.  He spoke truth to power.  Mark tells us, “When [Herod] heard [John the Baptist], he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.”

John had a reputation for calling Herod out.  And Herod, oddly enough, seemed to somehow appreciate it - probably because John was likely the only one who would.

For a while this intersection between politics and prophecy worked.  They each brought a kind of power that balanced out - Herod: the physical strength of his office, and John: the power of his moral authority.  But John’s truth-telling threatened his wife and mother-in-law.  He had questioned the legitimacy and appropriateness of Herod’s marriage, so they feared that their own positions of power might be threatened.  They used their own positions of influence to tip the precarious balance that had existed between the powers of Herod and John.

You may have heard, I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in Indianapolis at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

It’s fortuitous that we should hear this tale about power and prophecy today, because on one hand, General Convention is a decidedly political event.  It is, after all, first and foremost, a legislative body.  Deputies and bishops from all over the Episcopal Church and all around the world come together to pass legislation that will govern the direction of our church for the next three years and beyond, and to speak on behalf of the church to the wider world.

On the other hand, General Convention isn’t just a political event.  Unlike most other legislative bodies, it does it’s work in the context of daily - nearly constant - prayer.  The entire body - bishops, deputies, visitors, lobbyists, and exhibitors - gathers each day for a community Eucharist - some 6,000 to 8,000 people praying and singing and breaking bread together every day.  Additionally, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (made up of priests, deacons, and lay people) are each led by a team of chaplains who lead regular prayers and singing - particularly before the houses act on contentious or particularly significant pieces of legislation.

But even beyond these official acts of worship, other worship is happening all around.

photo from http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com
Two people were baptized at this General Convention.  One was a Jewish woman who had been attending an Episcopal church for several years, but who had never been baptized.  We baptized her in a huge outdoor fountain in downtown Indianapolis one hot and sunny morning, before moving into the shade at a nearby picnic table to celebrate the Eucharist.  Another was a transgender man who works as an aid for one of the physically disabled volunteers of the Convention.  He was baptized at the TransEpiscopal Eucharist - held in a small, tucked away corner of the convention center with about 25 people present.  Both of them were so moved by seeing the Episcopal Church in action that they felt surprising calls to be a part of it.

One of the growing highlights of each General Convention is the triennial Integrity Eucharist.  Integrity, you may recall, is the organization I work with that seeks to broaden the Episcopal Church’s welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Episcopalians.  The first Integrity Eucharist happened more than 35 years ago, hidden away in a hotel room, miles from the complex where the convention was happening.  Over the years it has steadily grown.  My first Integrity Eucharist was at the General Convention in Columbus in 2006.  There were 600 people packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the Cathedral that time.  Last time, in Anaheim in 2009, we were in ballroom at the convention center itself for the first time.  We had some 1,600 people.  This time, we knew there was no church large enough to hold us, so we were again in a ballroom at the convention center and we drew more than 2,200 people.

ENS photo: Sharon Sheridan
So prayer and worship are happening around the General Convention almost everywhere you turn.

That’s the difference between the General Convention and most other legislative bodies: it’s not just about political maneuvering and power.  Like the story of John the Baptist and Herod, it’s also about trying to find that delicate balance between power and prophecy.

Some have said that the story of John the Baptist’s death is a kind of foreshadowing of the story of Jesus’ death.  Herod has been likened to a kind of Pontius Pilate figure.  Both men are powerful, and both men get lost in political maneuvering, leading them to take actions that upset the delicate balance between politics and prophecy.

Similarly, both John the Baptist and Jesus become known for speaking uncomfortable truths from a place of relative powerlessness to the political powers that will determine whether they live or die.

The similarities between their stories are unmistakable.

But the story of John the Baptist and Herod does not just foreshadow the story of Jesus and Pilate - it also foreshadows our own story.

Whenever power and prophecy intersect, it’s a delicate balancing act.  The church most certainly is a political body.  There’s a degree to which we must be.  But at the same time, we must never forget our prophetic calling and responsibility.

The Episcopal Church tried to act with integrity at this General Convention.  We discussed and we prayed and we discerned, and our leaders acted in the ways in which they felt called.  We called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.  We expressed our support for oppressed Palestinians by calling for positive investment in their communities.  We clarified our commitment to nondiscrimination in the church by adding gender identity and expression to the explicit categories of nondiscrimination protected by our canon laws.  We affirmed the place of gay and lesbian Episcopalians in the church with the approval of liturgies for the blessing of their relationships.  We reaffirmed our denominational commitment to anti-racism.  And much, much more.

All in all, we tried to live into that delicate balance between power and prophecy.  It made me proud to be an Episcopalian.

In each of our lives, we, too, are called to practice that same balancing act.  There are degrees to which we’re all capable of wielding power, and degrees to which we’re all capable of speaking prophetic truth.  The story of John the Baptist and Herod is an allegory for us of what can happen when that balance is disrupted.

Power can bolster the prophet.  Prophets can guide the powerful.  But beware of losing that balance - it’s usually at the expense of the prophetic truth-tellers.

I’m grateful that our church seems to take this calling so seriously.  My prayer is that each of us, as members of a church that works to model this for us, can use our power and our prophecy in ways that bring truth to the world around us.  Amen.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Do not fear. Only believe.


Pentecost 5B


Preserve us, O God, from all faithless fears and worldly anxieties, through faith in your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

These past two weeks are lining up like Fear Factor for the church.  For two weeks in a row we hear stories about fear - stories about people being pushed to the very edges of their ability to cope, only to find Jesus there, ready to step in, just in time.

This week it’s hidden a little more than it was last week - with its storm-tossed boats and trembling disciples.  Fear was on the front page last week.  This week it’s still here, but it hidden a little deeper.

Perhaps you got lost in the healing stories and let it slip right past, but it was there: “Do not fear.  Only believe.”  That’s what Jesus said to Jairus after the message was brought that his daughter was dead.

“Do not fear.  Only believe.”

We hear these words only once every three years as a part of the Gospel for today, but we could stand to hear them every day.  We should hear them every day.  They should be our mantra.

“Do not fear.  Only believe.”

Very often, in our lives, fear seems to be the most logical reaction.  We live in the midst of profound uncertainty: financial uncertainty, environmental instability and climate change, threats to our physical safety from terrorism, crime, and simply everyday life.  It makes a lot of sense to be afraid – even for those among us who are most secure.

But Christ says, “Do not fear.  Only believe.”

In the Gospel that we read this morning, we hear the story of two healings intertwined with one another: the raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter, and the healing of the unnamed woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.

A desperate father and a lonely woman.  Jairus was a leader in the synagogue while the woman was a social and religious outcast.  These two, who were about as separated by the social order as any two could be, were united by two common threads: their fear, but also its antidote – their faith in God through Christ.

First, the story of Jairus.  He was a leader in the synagogue, and as such, a leader in his community.  Common people might fall under the spell of a traveling preacher like Jesus, but someone so ensconced in the establishment of his day, like Jairus was, must have been held to a higher standard.

Can you imagine the responses of his family, friends, and advisors?  His daughter was sick and getting sicker with each passing hour.  He was groping for hope wherever he might find it when he remembered the stories of Jesus.  Word had been spreading through the countryside of the things this man had done.  What must it have been like when Jairus first announced to those around him that he was leaving his daughter to seek the help of a heretic?

Then there’s the story of the woman.  Word of Jesus had spread to her, too.  Common people were clamoring around him for teaching and support, but she was not common.  She was to keep her distance.  She was ‘unclean’.  She had been unclean for many years.

What courage must she have summoned to break the social order, to enter a crowd, and to dare to touch another person?

Jairus and the woman, as separate as they were, shared a common curse.  The world was asking them to put aside their faith and their hope in favor of order and expectations.  The world was asking a lot of them.  But Christ was only asking this: that they “Do not fear.  Only believe.”

This isn’t one of the standard Sundays set apart for baptism, but as I was reflecting on this lesson today - this “Do not fear.  Only believe.” challenge - I couldn’t help but remember the challenges that we all carry with us as baptized members of the Christian community.

The challenge is to live our lives in a different way.  The challenge is to live by a standard that’s different from many of the people around us.  Even if other Christians also populate most of the circles in which we travel, the fact remains that the world - even the church - rarely lives up to the ideals we’ve set for ourselves.

Take a moment and pull out your Prayer Book again and turn with me to page 304 - the Baptismal Covenant - and follow along with me as we remind ourselves of the covenant we’ve made.

The questions at the end of the covenant have been described as the outline, or the directions, for how we plan to go about living our Christian lives.

Will you continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

After each question, we answer, “I will, with God’s help.”

It’s a lot to ask of each other.  It’s even more for each of us to promise.  Perhaps, if we take it seriously enough, it might even be enough to inspire fear.  How could we ever live up to this promise that we make to God, to each other, and to ourselves?

Not one of those vows is either easy or natural for most of us.  It is hard work to strive for justice and peace among all people.  Sometimes I’d rather not love my neighbor as myself.  Sometimes it feels good to continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; but, sometimes it feels better to just sleep in.

It’s a lot to ask.  But again and again we ask it of ourselves and of each other.  We promise again to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.  We have to keep promising again and again, because we always fail.

The burden of each “I will” can seem so great.  And as they compound, one on top of the other, five times over, the “I wills” can leave us feeling overladen with responsibility.

But “I will” is not the end of the story.  Yes, we will, but “with God’s help.” You will, and I will.  But the burden is not only our own.  We will repent and return to the Lord, but only with God’s help.

The stories of Jairus and the woman are remarkable because they’re not stories of fear, but stories of faith in the face of fear.  They’re remarkable not because of the healings or the miracles, but because of the faithfulness of Christ.  The suffering people have faith in God through Christ, and so, too, does Jesus remain faithful to them in their need.

Christ only asks one thing of us: that we do not fear, but only believe.  Amen.